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PostPosted: Wed Apr 20, 2011 7:39 pm 
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Well, now, I guess some backstory and exposition is in order...

I'm creating this thread because I have been asked to "publish" some of the scripts that my collaborators and I worked on for the past 2 years on the former New Line THE HOBBIT Official Movie Blog Discussions Forum (to give it its full title!) That Board is now defunct due to a revamp by the new owners, WB. I took on the unofficial role of "secretary," collating the individual contributions and being generally responsible for the overall direction the screenplay took, particularly with regards to canon. On occasions it threatened to take on a life of its own, but that's another story...

Having eagerly discussed and dissected The Hobbit and the LotR Appendices for inspiration, spending a year scripting our very own version of Peter Jackson's proposed "Bridge" film, (as his original intention had been, instead of the 2-part HOBBIT now in production,) we then decided to turn our attentions to Tolkien's Magnum Opus, The Silmarillion, and come up with ideas of how this could be translated to the "Big Screen".

Ultimately, as most people I think will concur, the best approach seemed to be to dramatize it as a TV series. Not only that, but instead of the nigh-on impossible task of scripting the whole book, we would take the more manageable approach of tackling just three main "Tales" from the SIL, which could conceivably come under the heading "The History of the Silmarils"...namely, Fëanor, Beren & Lúthien and Tuor/Eärendil (with the Fall of Gondolin.)

So firstly we took a look at the story of Fëanor creating the Silmarils and the biggest stumbling block we found was that the Valar are very much a part of this ...how does one explain these God-like beings, and the "heavenly paradise the Tale is set in, to an uninitiated audience, or one only familiar with Tolkien's world through LotR...

It became apparent that we needed a prologue for the creation of Arda, and the necessary exposition to set up Melkor as the villain of the piece, covering the construction and destruction of the Lamps, and briefly mentioning the creation of the Two Trees, and Great Journey of the Elves. All well and good, but members felt that we still needed to provide some frame of reference for the audience who would only keep watching if they could relate this Middle-earth history to familiar characters from LotR.

So we "uhmed" and "ahed", and eventually hit on the idea of a framing device modelled on that used in THE PRINCESS BRIDE, where the screenplay cuts back and forth between the fairy story itself and Peter Falk's character reading it to his grandson. For us, this would entail scripting "fanfction" for a 4th Age scenario involving Aragorn, Arwen and family.

I can see you all rolling your eyes right now as you read this! Well, it seemed a good idea at the time. Maybe you like that sort of thing, most probably you don't if you are a serious Tolkien scholar. All I can say in our defence is that our prime aim with this project was to make Tolkien's more "difficult" material accessible for the average film-goer. The other benefit of having this framing device was being able to use it to "jump ahead" in the timeline, or condense the story with narration where necessary. After the prologue, the 4th Age material was used to launch Fëanor's story and once we get into that, the interruptions from Eldarion and co. are few and far between, as we adhered to canon as much as humanly possible. We simply use Eldarion to ask questions that the audience might be asking themselves, or tie up loose ends...

Now, once upon a time, Alatar did "beta" read these first few episodes for us, and really felt that the 4th Age stuff could/should be left out...so I did take a look at cutting it from the Prologue. I guess it does sort of work okay as a standalone feature on its own, but, even though I personally, am not totally comfortable with using the fanfiction, IMO, it does help to make sense and give everything a point of reference. We have to remember that whilst we know and understand the SIL, to millions of people it would be totally incomprehensible going in cold.

Ultimately, once we get going on Fëanor's Tale properly, the First Age story stands on its own extremely well dramatically. I hope that even if you don't like the 4th age fanfiction you can bear with us or simply press the fast forward button until you get to the good stuff! By all means, be critical, and if you can suggest a better way to "get into" Fëanor's story, please suggest it.

I'm not sure exactly what the optimum length of a post should be for comfortable reading, so I'll probably experiment with the number of scenes posted in one go to begin with! And, I wish you, er, happy reading!

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PostPosted: Thu Apr 21, 2011 1:45 pm 
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So I guess, for all those willing to reserve judgement, at this point I should continue with some more explanation regarding the approach we took to this project. If you can bear with us, by the end of the next episode we will be firmly into the SIL material proper.

Maybe it works…maybe not. This is just one idea of how to approach such a dramatization. The 4th Age scenarios could easily be cut out, and maybe the SIL material would still stand up alone. I do believe, however, that it needs some kind of introduction...

As you can appreciate, there is no continuously developed narrative for the individual storylines, apart from a few isolated chapters. For example, in an attempt to dramatize Fëanor’s life story, his early, formative years are covered in a couple of sentences, yet they are the key in many ways to his character development and actions later in life. They need to be included in some way. Now that basically offers two alternatives: a complete fan fiction-type dramatization, or simply covering those early years with a montage of clips and perhaps a voiceover to describe the visuals.

We naturally chose the latter, as being preferable, and because we had developed these 4th Age characters to fill in such gaps where necessary. Thus, you will find that once we reach Fëanor’s “maturity,” it is simple enough to continue seamlessly with the First Age storyline and we no longer need the 4th Age framing device. Of course we could not exactly drop the other storyline completely without leaving the audience wondering, but the interruptions are extremely minimal from here on…

Now, just a word about this next episode, and the 4th Age storyline: we had originally conceived of the idea of telling these three Tales within a “road trip” for Aragorn and Eldarion. So we planned to cover Fëanor’s Tale on the road to Faramir’s place at Emyn Arnen, Beren & Lúthien’s story whilst they travelled through Ithilien to see Legolas’ new realm, and then Tuor, etc., on the return trip to Minas Tirith. And each Tale would be related by different characters with the knowledge and background to support the stories. Thus we decided that having Gimli pass through MT on his way to visit Legolas would be the catalyst for the trip, and also be the ideal character to talk about the creation of the Dwarves, and the Noldor love of craftwork and jewels. To this end we also came up with the idea of a companion for Gimli – Farin, a younger, naïve Dwarf relative, on Oin’s side, who would be a companion for Eldarion on the trip.

Ethelwynn wrote the introductory scene for Gimli and his companion, and she opted to write the dialogue in the Scottish vernacular that JRD adopted for his portrayal in Jackson's trilogy. And yes, we fell into the trap of continuing with Gimli as the loveable, unwittingly amusing uncle-figure. But in a dramatization of an epic Tale like those in the SIL, there is a need for contrast, for lighter moments as well as the heart in mouth darker ones…

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PostPosted: Thu Apr 21, 2011 2:04 pm 
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I haven't had a chance to read it yet (I don't want to give it a cursory glance), but I agree that the Silmarillion probably needs some kind of framing device to be successfully adapted (not a surprising opinion, given that one of my criticisms of the published Silmarillion is the failure to include an adequate framing device). Whether what you have chosen works I can't say. Yet.

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PostPosted: Thu Apr 21, 2011 2:50 pm 
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Can I suggest that you start a new thread for Ep 2 so that comments on Ep 1 don't get buried in the middle?

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PostPosted: Thu Apr 21, 2011 2:53 pm 
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Oh, okay... We have 4 seasons of 6 episodes each plus a couple of standalone episodes so that would mean 25 or more threads!!

Oh, and how do I split it off now???? Can someone do it for me so I don't have to leave a blank edited post here?

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PostPosted: Thu Apr 21, 2011 3:24 pm 
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Well, I don't know whether I've mellowed over time, but I find that I quite like the 4th Age framing device now. It works well. I look forward to the next episode.

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PostPosted: Thu Apr 21, 2011 4:28 pm 
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Wow! :shock: Guess it must be the language advice you gave us way back that's made a difference... :3face:

Thanks, Al, much appreciated

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PostPosted: Sat Apr 23, 2011 2:15 pm 
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It is probably appropriate at this point for me to continue with more of my commentary and observations on the treatment of this screenplay…especially knowing that the immediate reaction for most of you reading the scripts was probably– “but this is not much more than fanfiction!!!”

Well, naturally… how else could one dramatize a book like the SIL, short of having a narrator read the book over images of Nasmith/Howe/Lee illustrations or the odd acted out scene where Tolkien actually provides enough dialogue! That would be pretty sleep-inducing and totally unrealistic for a TV series! What we wanted to see was the world of the SIL brought to life, with real actors portraying Tolkien’s wonderful characters.

A screenplay must tell the story purely through dialogue and visuals. So the approach we took was to use every scrap we could glean from the text and turn it into dialogue for these characters, to fill out the scenes Tolkien describes, and fill in a few necessary gaps for events that he alludes to. Personally, I found Voronwë’s book invaluable in this, providing a quick reference link to the earlier versions JRRT wrote for some scenes, and we were able to add further detail from Tolkien’s original intentions in many cases.

I think I am safe in saying that none of us would describe ourselves as particularly gifted writers, although Ethelwynn has a natural flair for dialogue and characterization. Another of our team has an interest in set design, and the ability to visualize for us incredibly detailed descriptions of what they thought the sets would look like for some of the iconic locations in the book. I found I had a particular affinity with the mythological, so I gravitated towards the scenes for the Valar, to begin with…I guess at times I felt like Vairë, because I was also the person responsible for weaving all the threads together for the tapestry we were creating!

Talking of the Valar, a major headache with transcribing Tolkien’s world in the SIL is how to portray these “powers!” The creation stuff is pretty straight forward – we used the idea of animated bodies of light, and then we visualized the 4 key Ainur as having “humanoid” bodies that were formed from the elements they were associated with. In this day and age of CGI that is easily achieved. Those who saw PRINCE CASPIAN will remember the river “god” that rose up at the bridge, and that is pretty much how Ulmo would be realized. Aulë would naturally look like he was carved from a mountainside, and Manwë from swirling white clouds! Continuing with another film reference, if you saw INKHEART at the cinema, you might remember the evil Shadow CGI creature, all broiling black clouds and fiery eyes – that might work for Melkor, though he would probably switch form from thunderclouds to fiery inferno or lightning bolts! I believe the description in the SIL is of a snow-capped active volcano rising from the ocean!

The next stage of their “development” is when the 14 Valar inhabit Arda and take on physical forms. It also says that they could shed their physical form at will, and become invisible, so we used the idea, certainly for during the Years of the Lamps, of them being slightly translucent, or perhaps their attire blending in with their surroundings in some way, particularly round the edges – eg the hem of Nienna’s gown could fall in folds onto the ground and the silk would become like a pool of water, or Nessa’s flower-strewn gown could tail off into leafy tendrils and real blossoms, and so on, just to keep the hint of the Valar’s relationship with the elements of nature.

By the time the Elves make their Great Journey and arrive in Valinor, the Valar are wanting to welcome them, and not frighten them so they would be more solid and “humanoid” to all intents and purposes - like unto Kings and Queens of the Eldar but of a greater stature? (As in Breogan’s wonderful illustration for V’s book!) Their power remaining veiled for the most part…

They usually took the shape of Elves (and Men). The Valar assumed these forms when, after their demiurgic labours, they came and dwelt in Arda, the "Realm". In these _fanar_ they... presented themselves to the Elves (footnote: though they could also assume other wholly "inhuman" shapes, which were seldom seen by Elves or Men) and appeared as persons of majestic (but not gigantic) stature, vested in robes expressing their individual natures and functions.'
(The Road Goes Ever On; third ed; p.74)


Apparently they have no need for food or drink , and only hold feasts for the benefit of the Quendi. Well, we know that the Noldor were frequently entertained in Aulë’s halls, so it seemed only natural to have Aulë as a jovial “Vulcan”-type personality, again lightening the mood – perhaps this is the role Brian Blessed is meant for! ;)

Later on in the screenplay we decided to have them communicate telepathically (as Tolkien intended) when alone in consultation amongst themselves, but in some of the early scenes it made more sense for them to talk aloud. Their speech we kept formal as far as possible, with the Thees and Thous retained…

That gave us some contrast with the Quendi. Whilst the portrayal of Elves in LotR as aloof and formal works because there is the contrast with the other races of M-e, in Fëanor’s Tale in particular, it is all Elves, so we needed to vary the tone from that of the Valar. Just would not have worked for everyone to speak like Galadriel and Celeborn! So that is why our Noldor have an informality amongst themselves.

Touching back on the Valar again, the biggest conundrum is of course Melkor: before his imprisonment in Mandos he is this mighty Valar power that can take any form he likes, but when we see him before Manwë begging for release, he is seemingly reduced to a much lesser creature, who then goes among the Elves spreading lies and unrest and is apparently so unfrightening and impotent he can be sent away by slamming the door in his face! Of course this is apparently just an illusion, for when he is successful in his subterfuge he is able to escape by resuming his thundercloud disguise, and channel his Valar power freely to a certain extent. Rather difficult to pull off successfully in a dramatization without straining belief somewhat.

So Easter is upon us, and perhaps a chance for members to catch up with their reading! More episodes to follow after the long holiday weekend… In the meantime, please do offer any comments or corrections you might think necessary. They always slip through!

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PostPosted: Sat Apr 23, 2011 2:38 pm 
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I promise to take a close look this weekend!

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PostPosted: Sun Apr 24, 2011 2:01 pm 
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Elentári wrote:
By the time the Elves make their Great Journey and arrive in Valinor, the Valar are wanting to welcome them, and not frighten them so they would be more solid and “humanoid” to all intents and purposes - like unto Kings and Queens of the Eldar but of a greater stature? (As in Breogan’s wonderful illustration for V’s book!) Their power remaining veiled for the most part…

They usually took the shape of Elves (and Men). The Valar assumed these forms when, after their demiurgic labours, they came and dwelt in Arda, the "Realm". In these _fanar_ they... presented themselves to the Elves (footnote: though they could also assume other wholly "inhuman" shapes, which were seldom seen by Elves or Men) and appeared as persons of majestic (but not gigantic) stature, vested in robes expressing their individual natures and functions.'
(The Road Goes Ever On; third ed; p.74)





This is something I've struggled with lately. Up until Voronwë's book came out, with Breogans illustrations, I always thought of the Valar as pretty much the same as Elves, but of greater "majesty". Now, for me that just meant more noble, or powerful or something equally vague. However, Breogan's artwork showed them as being 15 to 20 feet tall, which had never really occurred to me. I still don't feel its supported in the text, although the people who answered my post about it all seemed to agree on that interpretation. I felt a little like the guy arguing for Balrog wings when everyone else was insisting on none!

However, this quote would seem to agree with my opinion "Majestic, but not gigantic". Its worth noting that Ted Nasmith also shows Aulë in Gigantic stature when attempting to destroy the Dwarves. Ulmo is often shown as Gigantic, but I feel Aulë's case is a little different in that you're not seeing his actual body but a manifestation.

Still, nice to get some confirmation that I'm not completely alone in my interpretation!

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PostPosted: Sun Apr 24, 2011 2:12 pm 
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I think it is supported by the text, but not required by the text, if that makes any sense.

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PostPosted: Sun Apr 24, 2011 7:05 pm 
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You know, when I was writing that latest commentary I went back and tried to find the quote about their size, because I was sure I'd read at the time we were scripting that they were larger...and I couldn't find it! I wonder now if it was on a Tolkien online encyclopedia or something?

But Voronwë, you would agree that it is inferred, even though it's not explicitly stated, then?

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PostPosted: Sun Apr 24, 2011 7:41 pm 
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Yes.

Here is the link to the beginning of the previous discussion on the subject, when Al commented about one of the illustrations in AR:

http://www.thehalloffire.net/forum/viewtopic.php?p=119577#119577

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PostPosted: Sun Apr 24, 2011 8:10 pm 
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Ah, thanks for that link - love that illustration of the brothers, and in fact, you'll be pleased to know that we did use Tolkien's original intention for that very scene! I believe that will be in episode 4...

I think I would agree with soli in that they would alter their size accoring to the situation: perhaps in the Ring of Doom they would be their full majestic height, but as for Aulë, he might take on a smaller stature when teaching the Noldor...

Equally it would make sense for Melkor to be comparable to the height of the Noldor when going around spreading his lies and rumours during his supposed "rehabilitation". He was given leave to wander freely within the city limits, and presumably his powers were restricted under the watchful eye of the other Valar until he escaped during the kerfuffle over Fëanor drawing his sword on Fingolfin. That's the conclusion we came to, anyway!

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PostPosted: Mon Apr 25, 2011 3:20 am 
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Elentári wrote:
Ah, thanks for that link - love that illustration of the brothers, and in fact, you'll be pleased to know that we did use Tolkien's original intention for that very scene!


Quite pleased to hear that!

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PostPosted: Mon Apr 25, 2011 4:21 am 
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This is one reason I love books. Imagination can take over and characters look as we like them. Yes, I'm being difficult again but I could never imagine the Valar being that much taller than the Elves. Maybe they can hit 7 feet, but going much taller than that just gets too awkward. To me, the size difference should be more like the parent/child difference than the human/hamster difference.

As to their majesty, that seems more of a "presence" than anything tangible. I suppose they might sparkle a bit, but power is shown by manner and the way they carry themselves not by size. Just my opinion, again.

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Yes, the quote I gave above clearly says they not "gigantic", so I would say 7-8 ft at the most - I suppose we do have Tolkien's own description of Sauron...

In one of his letters Tolkien does state that Sauron had a physical form in the Third Age:


Quote:
...in a tale which allows the incarnation of great spirits in a physical and destructible form their power must be far greater when actually physically present. ...Sauron should be thought of as very terrible. The form that he took was that of a man of more than human stature, but not gigantic.

Carpenter, Humphrey, ed. (1981), The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien, Boston: Houghton Mifflin, #246


Presumably one could draw the conclusion that he envisaged the Valar similarly - certainly Melkor/Morgoth as a terrible dark lord...

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Havng posted another couple of episodes, there is really only more of the same comments as before, regarding the approach we took to portraying the Noldor: to make the screenplay work the Elves needed to be interesting, to have character…to have traits that the audience could relate to, rather than be remote, formal characters… and of course, dialogue had to be provided to flesh out the scenes which Tolkien hinted at.

So, we had Finwë, Fëanor and 7 sons, plus 2 half-brothers with another 5 sons and 2 daughters between them. Rather a lot of male Elves to make individual enough for the audience to identify! One wonders if PJ would have dropped a few if he had been scripting this! ;)

I hope Ethelwynn might speak for herself regarding the approach she took for the Sons of Fëanor, and their cousins, since the bulk of the scenes with the males of the story were her inspiration in these two episodes, (those with the Valar were mostly mine, and that of Melkor and Ungoliant was one of SF’s earliest contributions, along with the scene in the Ring of Doom where Fëanor is exiled.) I think she did a marvellous job in developing the different personalities.

In the next few episodes we will see all of Finwë’s grandchildren involved in the rebellion, and whilst they all get a line or two, they aren’t all named in the dialogue – Fëanor’s sons are the most important and most strongly featured characters in this part of the story, so at this stage it doesn’t matter if the audience gets muddled regarding the rest of the cousins…as the second and third seasons progressed we were able to concentrate on each branch of the family, developing their individual storylines and enabling the audience to identify the characters.

Some quick notes about decisions we took:

Firstly, Orodreth we decided to portray as Angrod’s son, as per Tolkien's "final" notes on the matter

Secondly, without it being a conscious decision, Fëanor ’s sons (and their cousins) ended up slightly younger in our screenplay than Tolkien portrayed them in the SIL. On the whole it did not make much of a difference, apart from subsequently affecting the age of their children. Finrod still romances his beloved Amarië and we naturally had Turgon married off with a young child before he left Aman, because of losing Elenwë on the Helcaraxë. But one of the problems with working with Tolkien’s amended version of the story meant we neglected to give Angrod a wife in Aman, so decided he would marry in M-e, and therefore our Orodreth is younger than Tolkien wrote. Likewise our Celebrimbor ends up born in M-e later on because we did not have Curufin married in Aman. I hope that nobody is terribly upset about this…

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Now I'm on the spot. Yikes! I'd rather be facing down a shield wall all alone. Just me and my lochaber against the oncoming horde . . .

OK, first a confession. I have no talent for fine language. When I wrote Finwë's family, quite often Elentári would adjust my dialogue to make it sound more polished, more "Elven". She doesn't take the credit she should.

These characters have always been favorites of mine, probably because I grew up in a large, combative family. I grew up with six brothers, three sisters, and enough cousins to fill a stadium. We laughed, fought, shouted, cried, and swore at each other constantly (and still do), but God have mercy on anyone outside the family that troubled one of us. He or she would rapidly be facing all of us. It was clan before all else, and that is how I wrote Finwë's family -- somewhat disorganized but ultimately loyal against the outside world.

I got a bit of understanding of Fëanor from a couple of psychology classes I took. His temper, pride, and irrational anger resembled someone suffering from detatchment disorder, which would fit his early history. He craves affection, especially from his father, but he does not trust it since he was effectively abandoned as a small child. He never feels secure and takes affront easily. All this carries the shadow of a terrified toddler crying for the mother who has died and the father who is spending so much time tending her grave that he cannot properly care for his son.

Despite all this, I think Fëanor was a good husband and father. His relationship with his sons is somewhat dictatorial, but when he dies the family holds together. This shows that da did something right. As for his marriage, both Fëanor and Nerdanel have strong personalities and those types do not tend to go from passion to neutrality. I took their "estrangement" to mean their long separation, which gave us the chance to show a loving couple doomed never to be reunited in this life when they desperately want to be together. A little extra emotion never hurt.

The other alteration we made to the book is that we used Fëanor's sons to bring their grandfather's body back instead of unnamed Elves. This led logically to Caranthir being the first to find Finwë after the attack. Caranthir is perhaps the most like Fëanor in temperment, and the combination of recklessness and guilt over his inability to help Finwë seemed a good catalyst to turn him into the dark character he becomes.

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It was Alatar who set us on the right track, language-wise, after a shaky start! It was a case of once someone had pointed out the obvious to me, I made sure we kept a handle on it, (most of the time, anyway!)

Thanks for your commentary on the characters you worked with, Ethelwynn, and I hope that helps readers understand the appoach taken for some of these scenes. Unfortunately since sauronsfinger is taking a sabbatical from the JRRT Boards due to his R/L workload, he is not available for comment (as they say in political circles! ;) )

So the storyline really takes off in the last two episodes of this first season…and thankfully Tolkien gives us plenty of meat on the bone to work with here. The attack on the Trees should be visually arresting – SF hit on the idea not only of showing the way Yavanna feels the destruction of the Trees as if it is an attack on her personally, but also the visual effect of showing the absence of the Tree’s light as though the colour has been sucked from the landscape and everything becomes greyscale before the darkness descends.

We referred to Tolkien’s earlier versions for the arrival of the news of Finwë’s death at the Ring of Doom, having indeed the seven sons journeying from Formenos, and Maedhros relating the story to Manwë…

We introduced Galadriel for the first time in Episode 5, showing a glimpse of her desire to explore new lands and found a kingdom to rule over in M-e. Finrod says farewell to his previously unseen girlfriend, Amarië – this was to set her up for later references in the Tale of Beren & Lúthien. Aredhel is present but has no speaking role at the moment. But the audience will be able to see all the cousins squaring up and declaring their respective sympathies.

The 6th episode is particularly action-packed! We covered Morgoth’s betrayal of Ungoliant and return to Angband…the Kinslaying at Alqualondë, and Mandos’ pronouncement of the Doom of the Noldor, plus the arrival of Fëanor’s people in M-e and the subsequent burning of the ships at Losgar. We ended up with so much to cram in that we decided it would probably be best to make it a special extended episode season finale, complete with cliff-hanger ending to carry over into Season 2!

And what a cliff-hanger, indeed…Tolkien provides the perfect set up with his original intention to have Amras asleep on one of the ships as they are set alight. How could we not use that???

…But you’ll have to wait until after the Royal Wedding to find out if Amras survives!!!


One final point…remember the idea PJ had for the One Ring being a sentient power, and we hear it whisper from time to time? We came up with a similar idea for the Oath of Fëanor: we thought it would be a great way to “visualize” Fëanor’s madness, i.e., to have Fëanor believe that the voice he hears inside his head is the Oath which has taken on a life of its own…

Would be interested to know what you guys think!

_________________
There is magic in long-distance friendships. They let you relate to other human beings in a way that goes beyond being physically together and is often more profound.
~Diana Cortes


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